Not All Struggling Artists Are Geniuses

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Title: The Disaster Artist

Rating: 4 Stars

Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is a very young struggling actor. He wants to be an actor but once on stage becomes inhibited. He meets the much older Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) who is equally untalented but is completely uninhibited on stage.

Greg starts a tentative friendship with Tommy. Over time, Tommy’s spirit begins to infect Greg and they become close friends, although Tommy is very mysterious about his past and seems to have an unexplained large amount of cash.

Eventually they decide that if they really want to pursue their acting dreams, then they should really move to Los Angeles, where Tommy is already (again mysteriously) renting an apartment.

Once in Los Angeles, they both struggle. Tommy, despite his rather haggard appearance and mysterious accent, refuses to consider anything other than a romantic lead type of role. Greg is just another pretty face in a sea of pretty faces.

Eventually, Tommy gets so discouraged that he decides to leave. Greg reminds him of their oath to each other to push each other to succeed. Greg wishes that they had enough money to make a movie. In a flash, Tommy decides that is what they will do.

Tommy writes the screenplay and will star and direct. Greg also has a starring role and will co-produce. They essentially take over a small movie studio. Although they are incompetent, there do hire a couple of experienced people that at least makes sure that a semi viable film is made.

It’s quickly apparent that Tommy is an incompetent actor. Not only that, Tommy eventually assumes near dictatorial control over the set and is tyrannical to the crew.

The film dramatically goes over budget but eventually it does wrap, although by the end Greg and Tommy are feuding and go their separate ways.

Some time later, the film (The Room) is complete, Tommy rents out a theater to screen it, and invites Greg. Greg reluctantly attends. As the screening progresses, at first the audience is confused by the movie, becomes horrified by the low quality of it, but by the end everyone is rollicking with laughter at its unintended humor.

Tommy is mortified, but Greg, coming to his friend’s aid one last time, reminds him that the purpose of film is to entertain. Obviously, the crowd is having a wonderful time, so Tommy should appreciate that.

Tommy comes back in at the end of the screen and takes a bow to rousing cheers.

First of all, James Franco does a great job with the Tommy Wiseau character. At the end, they include scenes from the original movie (The Room) with the recreated scenes in The Disaster Artist. Franco does a good job capturing the odd, awkward mannerisms and language of Wiseau.

The Disaster Artist was entertaining. It had all of the usual suspects as supporting actors (Seth Rogan, Jason Mantzoukas, Zac Efron, Bob Odenkirk, Paul Scheer) with Sharon Stone and Melanie Griffith making surprise appearances in a couple of small roles.

At some level, the message of the film kind of seems to be that hard work and dedication are not enough. To truly be successful, you need some level of talent. Not everyone gets to grow up to be an astronaut, no matter how many little kids want to be one.

However, having a lot of money certainly means that you can force your way onto the stage. If Wiseau did not have money, then it’s certainly true that he would have never had a leading role in a film. This reminds me of Marion Davies, the longtime mistress of William Randolph Hearst. He basically started a movie studio to promote her movie career and she appeared in a couple of dozen movies, despite being at best a middling talent. Ironically enough, she was smarter with the money that Hearst gave her than he was with his own. At one point, she wrote him a million dollar check to bail him out of financial trouble.

However, the message that you do need some modicum amount of talent is muddied by the fact that The Room itself ultimately became a cult classic and has since actually made its money back and then some.

Is the message then that maybe luck beats talent?

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